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What can you learn from the world's best productivity consultants? Let's ask!

As you know, I'm working on being a top personal productivity consultant. In addition to absorbing every related book I can lay my hands on [1], I've been developing my networking skills [2], building my LinkedIn network, and asking smart, successful people how they got to where they are (and where I want to be).

To accelerate this, I'll be running a blog series interviewing the world's top productivity consultants, and I'd like your help. My goals? Learn from the experts (productivity methods and business tips), form connections, and get inspired.

From you I'd love to know:
  • Who would you like to hear about?
  • What questions would you ask?
  • How do you suggest I make contact with them?
  • Have you or a colleague worked with one of them?
  • How do I convince them to participate?
  • And anything else you suggest for the project.
Below you'll find details, including my requirements for choosing, a starting set of candidates, some sample questions, and some helpful tips on connecting and interviewing I've pulled together to make this project successful.

Let me know!

(Side note: A Tip of the Hat to Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek fame for pushing me over the edge on this. Though I've been collecting names since January, it was his points on becoming an expert [3] that kicked me into action.)


The folks whose stories [4]I want to share and learn from should:
  • Be an acknowledged expert in time management and personal productivity,
  • Have a highly successful consulting practice,
  • Work with top people in mid-to-large sized organizations, and
  • Have a business and/or research focus.
In other words, the person you'd hire if you wanted the best, and were willing to pay top dollar for. (Note: I've not included David Allen (whose story is very well know) or Mark Forster (who I had the pleasure of interviewing earlier).


The main question is: Who are the best people you'd like to hear about? While I've not contacted any of them (so I haven't a clue whether they'll consent to an interview), I have a ton of respect for the following experts (by no means complete): Hey - That's a nice bibliography!


While the number of questions I asked will be limited by how much time our experts are willing to share, here are some I'd love to hear answers to. Please let me know yours.
  • How did you get your start?
  • What were the biggest factors in your success?
  • How did you build your clientele?
  • How do you to ensure (as much as possible) that clients "get it," i.e., that it sticks [5].
  • What's your market focus/niche?
  • How do you summarize your method, and how did you develop it?
  • How do you stay on top of the field (reading [6], tools [7], assistants, outsourcing [8])?
  • For authors, how did your book(s) come about? What's your muse?
  • What were your biggest influences in developing your method?
  • Who were your mentors [9]? How did you connect with them? What did you give back?
  • What products and services do you sell?
  • How do you apply the 80/20 principle to your practice?
  • How did you decide pricing? Is it fixed, or more like Value-Based Fees?
  • What role did networking play, and how do you stay on top?
  • What strategic partnerships [10]did you form, how did they come about, and what's their value to you?
  • How do you delight and surprise your clients?
  • Who are your competitors/peers?


How do you suggest connecting with these busy folks? Here's one approach from Scott Allen (author of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors And Closing Deals Online): Using LinkedIn to Find Celebrity Guests. Scott provides some great wisdom on networking on his Linked Intelligence and The Virtual Handshake blogs.


How do you do a great interview? Here are some tips:

Reader Comments (17)


What a good idea for a product. Your list looks comprehensive but I will rack my brains to see if I can add to it.

I've once intended to do a similar thing for lawyers i.e. interview top lawyers to find out how they approached their work. Other commitments intervened.

I also really like your interviewing tips and links. I have a project in the very early stages that will involve interviews so this is very helpful.

And Ferriss messes with your head :)

September 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Davidson

Hey, Andrew. Thanks for the product idea - I've been looking for them as well. I'll be reading [ The 25 Best Time Management Tools & Techniques: How to Get More Done Without Driving Yourself Crazy | http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/097695060X?ie=UTF8&tag=masidbl-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=097695060X ] next, and I'm excited about seeing how it all comes together.

The lawyer project is a great idea - a someday/maybe?

And I'm very pleased you found useful the interviewing tips. Thanks for reading!

P.S. I'm sorry [ The Four Hour Work Week Is Ruining Your Life | http://selfhelpthatworks.blogspot.com/ ] :-)

September 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

How about asking them what they are currently reading or what their all time favorite book is?

September 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I would like to read your blogs only right now! :D

September 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJwalant Natvarlal Soneji

Anonymous: How about asking them what they are currently reading or what their all time favorite book is? An *excellent* question - thank you.

Jwalant: I would like to read your blogs only right now! :D Ha! I'll be starting them soon, so hopefully you'll not have to wait too long.

Thank you both for commenting.

September 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Here's an emailed comment from a reader:

I love watching your process..thanks for being so open and willing to share…

How about asking: What this type of work gives them? Feeds them, brings them satisfaction, joy?

Who do they admire, look to as models of where/how they want to be and why…

I look forward to reading….

September 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Off topic......
I believe that by just being a part of “Priscilla Palmer’s Personal Development list” suggests that each of us post this list. You like me (Killeris at “Attitude, the Ultimate Power”) are on this list. If you have already posted it, THANK YOU. If you have not posted it, I am officially putting out a challenge that you add additional sites that fit the theme and post the entire list. This is my opinion only. If you disagree I respectfully understand. If you do agree with me this list can be found at: http://mondaymorningpower.blogspot.com/2007/09/personal-development-list-challenge.html

September 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMonday Morning Power

Hi Mel (MMP): Thanks for the suggestion. Let me try to rephrase to see if I have it: Create the list, publish it, invite contributions, and keep it up-to-date?

September 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hi Matt,

The lawyer product is now a someday/maybe as you say. My day to day life is too full at the moment.

One thought occurs to me - could you also interview well known people who are not productivity gurus but who are known to use their time well? In Richard Branson's biography, for example, he says he is a fanatical list maker. There are many more I'm sure. If you secure some of these as well it might widen it up to a wider audience.

And I'm hoping that Ferriss improves my life after he's ruined it!

All the best


September 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Davidson

I would ask the expert you are interviewing the following question. If you could give one suggestion to everyone interested in improving in productivity what would you suggest to them?

September 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGene

Andrew: Thanks for the good suggestion - it's logged.

Gene: Much appreciated. It's now on my list!

September 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

You know I had a list of questions I made, then I read all yours and struck through all mine and welp, now I'm back to just watching! hahaha!

I just attended an ICF social and have found a serious lack of productivity coaches in my area. Based on your responses it'll help me get my own foot in the door locally.


September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Andy: You know I had a list of questions I made, then I read all yours and struck through all mine and welp, now I'm back to just watching! - Hey, thank you - it's the thought that counts, as they say.

ICF... Is that International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, The Information and Cooperation Forum, or?

Based on your responses it'll help me get my own foot in the door locally. - Great! Glad that helped. Thanks for reading.

September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hello Matt,

2 extra people for your list

Bill Jenssen (Simplicity - www.simplerwork.com)
Tony Buzan

A Xtra question : what gives you a lever to get more things done.

Take Care

September 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohan DHaeseleer

Thanks, Johan - I've added them to my list.

What gives you a lever to get more things done. - Are you looking for a kind of best tool/tip/idea? Or something like an 80/20 that scales/multiplies their work?

September 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hey Matt, ever wonder what Alan Lakein is up to now? or Charles Hobbes?


October 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Hey, Gordon. Great question! I did not know about Hobbes. I did a pretty good search for both of them, with nothing current showing up. Here are links to their books: [ How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life (Signet) | http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0451167724?ie=UTF8&tag=masidbl-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0451167724 ], [ Time Power: The Revolutionary Time Management System That Can Change Your Professional and Personal | http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060914904?ie=UTF8&tag=masidbl-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0060914904 ].

October 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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